Churchgoers found themselves stunned after Perth, Australia, police stopped mass to see whether parishioners were wearing masks during a recent church service.
What are the details?
The Daily Mail reported that a photo uploaded to social media showed at least one police officer standing near a dais alongside a priest at St. Bernadette’s Catholic Church at Mount Hawthorn in Perth on Thursday night.
Authorities were said to have arrived at the church after receiving a tip that worshippers were not following mask mandates.
One churchgoer named Matthew said that everyone in the church was “pretty surprised” and that it was “troubling to see the liturgy that you love being stopped by police.”
“It was pretty confronting,” he recalled. “Everyone was sort of pretty stunned, I suppose. Then as soon as it started it was sort of over as he left.”
The outlet reported that leaders believe the incident was a massive overreach.
In a statement on the interruption, authorities said that at least four people were found to be non-compliant with the region’s mask mandate.
“Police responded to a report from a member of the public of people not wearing masks inside a church in Mount Hawthorn,” the statement read. “Upon attendance, five people were spoken to by police and complied in wearing a mask. One person provided proof of an exemption.”
According to a Friday report from news.com.au, the church took to its social media pages to announce that masks are required inside the building.
“Please ensure that you are wearing a mask when you are attending mass/adoration,” the post said, according to the outlet. “You are not permitted to enter the church unless you are wearing a mask. If you have an exemption letter from your doctor, then please make certain that you carry this on you at all times. Heavy fines on the parish priest, our parish, and individuals will be incurred if you are caught without wearing your mask. Please co-operate with this request so as to avoid any complications.”
In a statement, Catholic Archbishop of Perth Timothy Costelloe said that the incident was “regrettable.”
“It is highly regrettable that the police felt themselves obliged to intervene during a religious service in one of Perth’s Catholic parishes in order to enforce the mask-wearing mandate,” he said. “The celebration of the Eucharist is the central act of Catholic worship and is sacred to all Catholics. It is my hope that other ways can be found to deal with this delicate issue in future and my office stands ready to co-operate with the police in this manner.”
The statement added, “The office of the Archbishop will continue to provide all Catholic parishes and other agencies with very clear advice as to their obligations to act in compliance with the government‘s directives.”
The country’s COVID-19 response has been strict to say the least.
According to National Review, such mitigation measures have included “prolonged lockdowns, closely monitored quarantine and isolation, state surveillance of citizens, testing checkpoints, and barring unvaccinated residents from certain activities.”